Has this ever happened to you? Things are going pretty good in your relationship and you don’t want to “rock the boat” and say something that might upset your loved one. You may believe that it is safer to just say nothing. Perhaps it has been your pattern to ignore, deny, minimize or rationalize what you’re feeling or experiencing just to keep the peace and not “rock the boat.”
I lived my life with those unhealthy patterns for many years because I didn’t know any better. I wasn’t taught how to communicate effectively, especially being assertive and asking for what I wanted. When my ex-husband sensed something was bothering me, he would ask, “Is something wrong?” I would automatically say, “No, nothing is wrong.” We both played the same game saying nothing was wrong, instead of being honest and open. I would continue to feel hurt, sulk or cry until we got to the bottom of things. Often, it would be days or weeks before I was aware of what I was feeling. I was good at pushing my feelings down by staying busy or eating or whatever else I did to avoid my feelings.
I remember a time when I was married and we were having company. I was running around the house like a chicken without a head and my ex-husband was sitting on the couch reading the newspaper. I was vacuuming the rug when he asked, “Is something wrong?” I blew up and said, “Can’t you see I need help?” He said, “All you needed to do was ask me to vacuum and I would have been happy to do it.” He was right. I expected him to read my mind, which is another unhealthy pattern that we fell into.
As I got stronger and learned how to communicate assertively and effectively, I started to speak up and ask for what I wanted as well as what I didn’t want in our relationship. In fact, I have heard you teach what you need to learn. For many years, I taught weekly interpersonal skills groups when I worked at the VA hospital. Speaking up didn’t always work and my ex-husband didn’t like it. Changing patterns in a relationship takes a lot of work and both parties have to be willing to change or it doesn’t work. It takes courage and trust in yourself to speak up and perhaps upset the apple cart. It’s risky business because the relationship may not last. In fact, it didn’t last and my marriage of 30 years ended 17 years ago.
Larry and I have great communication skills. We invite each other to be honest and open. We take the time to listen to each other and take responsibility for our actions, and often end up laughing at ourselves. Because our relationship is healthy and open, it is easy for me to bring up something that may be bothering me. I no longer, deny, minimize, ignore or rationalize what I am feeling or experiencing.
For the past week, I have had the “opportunity” to practice and speak up to Larry about a few things that upset me. They weren’t big things, but nonetheless, I chose to share them with him because I didn’t want things to build up inside of me and then come out sideways a month later. As I shared earlier, in the past, it might have taken me days or weeks to get in touch with my feelings and realize I was upset about something. For the most part, today I am aware almost immediately of what I’m feeling and share if it is appropriate and for the good of our relationship.
I realized my “history” of “speaking up” did rock the boat and ended our 30 – year marriage. Even though I will not return to unhealthy patterns of communication and behaviors, I felt vulnerable and fearful of what might happen with Larry and me because I spoke up and asked clearly for what I wanted and shared what I didn’t want. Deep down, I sensed this wasn’t about my relationship with Larry, but past relationships and what happened.
I prayed and asked God for help. Here is what I heard Spirit say: “As you speak up and share your truth, you are modeling healthy communication and this is good, Pat. Don’t be afraid, trust me, trust yourself and trust your relationship.”
I am choosing love instead of fear. Today love means being honest, open, willing, authentic, trusting, worthy and deserving. Fear means holding back, denying, pretending, running away, pushing away, minimizing, pleasing another at the expense of myself and not rocking the boat.
I invited Larry to share his thoughts, feelings and history about communication in a relationship.
I believe that communication is crucial in any relationship, especially with your partner. Like Pat, I didn’t have the skills to communicate in my first marriage, but I have had a lot of years to practice and learn. If my ex-wife confronted me with something that was bothering her, I would automatically get “defensive” because it made me feel “wrong” and I didn’t like that. I didn’t understand that it was her perspective and it didn’t automatically make me wrong.
Today, I am open to listen when something is bothering Pat and I don’t have to defend myself. We are able to work things out so both of our needs are met. When Pat has a problem I try to be present to her with patience and kindness even though I may be seeing things from an entirely different prospective and may not agree with her. It’s not always easy but we both feel it’s worth it.
I am so fortunate that Pat has the great communication skills that she has. She seems to be able to get right to the point of a situation without being “accusatory” or insensitive and that’s great. That doesn’t necessarily make it easy for me because most times, the result is that I have to look at myself and my actions to discern what is going on that I may need to change.
Pat is teaching me how to communicate more effectively and ask for what I want, which is something I didn’t do real well. Looking back, I realize I didn’t ask for what I wanted because I didn’t know what I wanted. I was focused on my family and pleasing them and making them happy. I also didn’t feel deserving to ask even if I did know what I wanted. The beginning of my journey to find out who I was and what I wanted started many years ago when I lost everything: my home, family and business.
It is in a man’s DNA to “protect” his woman. I had a tendency to want to “help” whether it was wanted, appreciated or needed. I am learning to ask Pat if she wants my help and let her make the decision. Pat feels respected knowing she can do something on her own if she wants to, and it also takes the pressure off me to always feel like I have to help her.
I believe Pat feels a sense of love, security and protection, but I am not taking care of her, she is an intelligent woman who makes her own decisions, knows what she likes and dislikes and makes her choices accordingly. We are a couple who love and care for one another, love spending time together and doing things together and we each have our own lives and interests apart. We are joined at the heart not at the hip.
I am trying to live my life as a “vessel of love” and to do that I’ve had to make a lot of changes. I’m still learning to turn to the energy and light of love within when I need guidance and not allow fear and ego to influence me. Love has never failed me and never will. There is nothing stronger than the energy of love.
As my birthday approached this week, I promised myself that I would not let anything or anyone rob me of my joy and peace, like I have done in the past in regards to my birthday. Being forgotten on my birthday by a family member year after year left a lasting memory. I reminded myself that was the past and this was the present.
I wanted to celebrate my birth and have a great birthday, and I did. My mantra was “I am open to receive (without judgment) whatever and whoever wants to give to me on my birthday.”
It was overwhelming and humbling when I received so many happy birthday wishes from Facebook friends, especially friends that I graduated high school with 50 years ago. My beloved, Larry, who calls me his QUEEN made me feel very special. We had a glorious day celebrating my birthday with dinner and a show. He bought me a beautiful topaz ring that I love and sent me 2 cards with poems that he wrote for me. How much better does it get than this? It is true, good things come to those who wait.
My friends and family called to wish me a happy birthday and sent cards and gifts and I truly felt loved. My women’s’ WOW group (Women of Wisdom) had a birthday cake for me and my friend, Kati, took me out to lunch and brought me lovely gifts and 2 roses.
What I have learned is that I can ask for what I want, but that doesn’t mean the other party will deliver, especially family members. I know that if I ask, there is at least a chance that I will be heard and get what I want as I have shared in past blogs.
When I am not heard and don’t get what I want, I have several choices: I can speak up & share my disappointment, I can shut up & detach, I can be grateful for “what is”, I can let go & accept, I can focus on what I do have, I can hold a resentment and feel like a victim, or I can live in my joy no matter what anyone does or doesn’t do. You see, I am not responsible for the actions of others- what they do or don’t do, what they say or don’t say. I am only responsible for my own actions and reactions and that is plenty enough to take care of.
In the past, when I didn’t know any better, I tried to guilt family members to do what I wanted them to do. They may have done what I wanted them to do once to get me off their back, but it was only temporary. People will do what they want to do and that is really what I want, because it will come from their heart. Today I know that if someone does something or gives me something, it is because they want to and not because they should or out of guilt.
I have learned to do what I want to do because it feels good and it is the loving thing to do. I don’t do what I don’t want to do (if it is not hurting another). I resist if I sense that someone is trying to guilt me into doing something that I don’t want to do. That once worked, but it doesn’t anymore.
I have had a history of taking things personally and thinking it was all about me when a loved one didn’t do what I wanted them to do. I know today that it usually has nothing to do with me. What a relief and blessing it is to know this for myself and for the people who love me and I love. I caused myself undue stress and pain for many years because I thought I wasn’t loved or deserving because someone didn’t do what I asked and wanted them to do. I needed to change my thinking and realize not everyone has the same love language as me.
Of course, it is wonderful to be loved and to love another person. That is what makes the world go around and I am very grateful for the love in my life. I have learned that when I look to another to fill up my tank because it is empty, I give my power away and feel like a victim when I don’t get what I want.
Nobody can give to me what I can give to myself. The love that I want and deserve is my own love and God’s love. When I don’t get what I want from another, I don’t have to wait around because I can give it to myself. For example, I buy myself flowers, cards or something special just for me. I take myself out for dinner or lunch when I want to.
The spiritual journey is about knowing what is mine and what is not mine. It is about knowing what I can and cannot control. I cannot control what another person does or doesn’t do no matter how hard I try. Trying to control another person is futile and disrespectful and it just doesn’t work.
The good news is that I know what I can control and change and that is me: my actions, my thoughts, my reactions and my attitudes. Today, I take responsibility for all of my choices, actions and trust the process of life, knowing that I attract everything and every situation into my life for my highest good.
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